For many children and teens across the U.S., March means the start of baseball and softball season. Though enrollment numbers have fallen noticeably since the early 2000s, the Wall Street Journal reported that some 8.5 million kids and teens still played baseball and softball as of 2013

While baseball teaches kids important life lessons about teamwork and commitment, there are certain safety risks involved. According to Loyola Medicine, sports and other leisure activities result in 40,000 eye injuries each year, and baseball is among the biggest contributors to that figure. If you want your son or daughter to hit a home run this season, make sure you follow these fundamentals of baseball and softball safety:

"In 2013, 8.5 million kids played baseball and softball."

Get your child checked out
Mom's Team suggested that every child undergo a routine check-up. prior to the start of baseball or softball season no matter their overall health and level of activity. This is an effective way to determine your child's status and capabilities and to make sure playing doesn't interfere with normal development. A doctor can also assess any kid's basic risk for certain injuries and suggest ways that the kid can avoid these setbacks. Plus, you show the youngster the importance of proper health and the need for ongoing monitoring and personal awareness. In addition to a standard checkup, you may also want to book an eye doctor appointment. Proper vision is fundamental in both playing baseball and avoiding possible injuries.

Get the right equipment
Children may be resilient, but when it comes to playing organized sports, they're still going to need to wear the proper safety equipment. As the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested, parents must consider a number of different factors when purchasing equipment. For one, all boys need either cups or athletic supporters. The same goes for shin guards and knee pads, which safeguard body parts that are especially vulnerable during play. For shoes, avoid metal spikes and instead go for cleats with the much safer rubber tips. If your child is going to be a catcher, he or she will also need a face guard and chest protector. Finally, don't forget protective eyewear, which safeguards against trauma and minimizes exposure to harmful UV rays.

Always make sure to stretch
With as much time as children spend running and jumping, you'd think that stretching might not be necessary for a big game. However, a 2012 study in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that even light stretching before a game can go a long way to prevent injuries and muscle cramps. According to the Youth Baseball Blog, your child's pre-game routine should involve two fundamental sets of exercise: light jogging and dynamic stretching. In the former, you want to make sure your little slugger runs at least 30 minutes before the game to get his or her heart rate ready for the demands of baseball or softball. With stretching, there are several exercises your child can perform, including high knee lifts, lunges and side-to-side striding. 

"It takes just 20 minutes of exposure to generate a sunburn."

Don't forget the little things
The right equipment and proper stretching are only part of preventing injuries. As the Doernbecher Children's Hospital explained, there are several other steps that many parents simply neglect. For instance, children need to drink plenty of water when they are on the field, and every kid's league should include regular water breaks. Not enough children wear sunscreen, and it takes just 20 minutes of exposure to generate a sunburn, according to the American Skin Association. Some parents may feel better if they perform a sweep of the field before game time, though there are officials to handle this task. That means looking out for debris and garbage, holes in the field and any exposed pipes or sprinkler heads. 

Unfortunately, it's next to impossible to full protect your future baseball start from injuries, and strained muscles and eye injuries are always possibilities. If anything does occur, you can always take your child to the nearest CareWell Urgent Care Center. With teams of highly rained doctors at facilities across the East Coast, CareWell can treat almost any injury and get your little slugger back on the field in no time.